How New York City’s Police Unions Embraced Trump

(NYT) - The unions’ leadership is mostly white, suburban and Republican, setting it apart from an increasingly diverse police force and the city itself.

How New York City’s Police Unions Embraced Trump

Mr. Lynch said his union, the Police Benevolent Association, was endorsing Mr. Trump because city and state leaders had been relentlessly scapegoating hard-working police officers and allowing chaos to reign on the streets.

But another factor that may have played into the P.B.A.’s endorsement could be seen in the imagery surrounding him: Joining Mr. Lynch before a sea of mostly white union members were three of his top colleagues, each of them a white Republican from conservative strongholds in Staten Island or Long Island.

The tableau of the four union leaders standing together with Mr. Trump reflected a larger truth about the upper ranks of the city’s police unions: Even as the Police Department has become more diverse and is now less than half white, the unions continue to be run mostly by white conservatives who live in the suburbs and increasingly echo the president’s views.

Nearly 90 percent of the police unions’ leaders — officers, trustees, financial secretaries — are white and even more are men, according to an analysis of public records by The New York Times. Close to 70 percent are registered Republicans and more than 60 percent live on Long Island or in counties north of New York City, the analysis found.

The demographic gap helps explain the political spectacle and cultural gulf on display in recent weeks as New York City police union leaders have stridently repeated the president’s mayhem messaging and attacked Black Lives Matter protests in scathing terms.

This is occurring in a city where Mr. Trump is deeply unpopular, only a third of residents are white and the Democratic establishment has embraced the nationwide campaign against police brutality and racial bias.

While some Black and Hispanic police fraternal groups objected to Mr. Lynch’s endorsement of the president, there is no evidence of a broader backlash among rank-and-file members to the announcement of support, nor to Mr. Lynch’s speech last month praising the president at the Republican National Convention.

Still, the demographics of the police unions’ leadership set it starkly apart from a majority of the department’s 36,000 uniformed officers and from the wider population of New York.

Like President Trump, Mr. Lynch and his colleagues have chosen to characterize the current round of protests not as a moment of historical reckoning over systemic racism, but instead as one of chaos sowed by the “radical left.”

Mr. Trump has in turn amplified those views. On Sunday, he responded to a tweet from Mayor Bill de Blasio encouraging New Yorkers to enjoy the nice weather by saying, “People don’t want to get mugged, beaten up, or killed. Let New York’s Finest (who proudly endorsed me!) do their job.”

New York’s Police Officers by Race, Compared With Union Leadership

 

Police officers

47%

White

29

Hispanic

15

Black

9

Asian

Police union leadership

88%

White

7

Hispanic

5

Black

Source: New York Police Department

By Anjali Singhvi and Scott Reinhard

 

As they have done for years, the union leaders have set themselves against the momentum for change. They have fought a city law that made it a misdemeanor for police officers to use chokeholds during arrests, and tried to stop a state law that makes officers’ disciplinary records public. And they have fiercely opposed a state law ending the use of cash bail for most nonviolent offenders in New York.

City and state officials said the police unions have largely given up on traditional lobbying and back-room negotiations since their main political allies, Republican lawmakers who controlled the State Senate, lost power two years ago. The police union leaders have instead leaned more heavily than ever on incendiary public attacks on liberal politicians and their allies.

In June, for instance, when the unions faced certain defeat in a long battle to keep their members’ disciplinary records secret, they conceded as much to several state lawmakers and asked for only small concessions, according to two lawmakers approached by the unions.